Editors’ Notes For decades, Keith Jarrett has made the wholly improvised solo piano concert a centerpiece of his creative output. His daring and virtuosity in this setting never flagged, but there’s something about ’70s solo Jarrett that rises above the rest in terms of its sheer scope and inspiration. Sun Bear Concerts—originally a 10-LP set, later reissued on six CDs (with three encores tacked on at the end)—is the most immersive of them all, documenting the pianist’s November 1976 performances in five Japanese cities.

Unlike in later years, when Jarrett preferred to improvise shorter, self-contained pieces and pack more of them into an evening, Sun Bear Concerts captures the Jarrett who would play for the better part of an hour without stopping. So it’s clear right away that this collection is not something to digest in one sitting. But savoring these long, majestically winding creations one at a time is reward enough.

Nothing is repeated, though certain gestures, dramatic arcs, and common threads start to emerge. Steady drone-based grooves, imposing counterpoint, passages of dense and mysterious block harmony piling up like thunderclouds, episodes of pure lyricism and folklike calm, jaw-dropping feats of single-note clarity and speed and expression, ballads emerging spontaneously from some unknown realm: All this and more typically happens in a single improvisation. If there’s one peak example that holds you from start to finish, it’s “Nagoya - November 12, 1976, Pt. 1"—prime Jarrett for the ages. "Osaka - November 8, 1976, Pt. 1," too, boasts one of the strongest, most genuine song themes of the batch, in roughly the last third of the piece.

SONG
Kyoto, November 5, 1976
Kyoto - November 5, 1976, Pt. 1
1
 
Kyoto - November 5, 1976, Pt. 2
2
 
Osaka, November 8, 1976
Osaka - November 8, 1976, Pt. 1
1
 
Osaka - November 8, 1976, Pt. 2
2
 
Nagoya, November 12, 1976
Nagoya - November 12, 1976, Pt. 1
1
 
Nagoya - November 12, 1976, Pt. 2
2
 
Tokyo, November 14, 1976
Tokyo - November 14, 1976, Pt. 1
1
 
Tokyo - November 14, 1976, Pt. 2
2
 
Sapporo, November 18, 1976
Sapporo - November 18, 1976, Pt. 1
1
 
Sapporo - November 18, 1976, Pt. 2
2
 
Sapporo - November 18, 1976
1
 
Tokyo - November 14, 1976
2
 
Nagoya - November 12, 1976
3
 

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